Friday, May 20, 2011

How Organic is That?

We’re told these days that we should buy and eat organic as much as possible, especially when eating from the dirty dozen. But how do we differentiate between organic and conventionally-grown produce in the market when it’s not advertised as either?

The best way to tell is from the label on the produce. An organic item will have a 5 digit number beginning with a “9” and a non-organic fruit or vegetable will have a 4 digit number. For example, I just bought organic granny smith apples with the item number 94017 and conventional avocados numbered 4225. So that seems simple enough.

But what about processed, packaged foods, like cereals or crackers, that claim to be organic? There are three ways to tell “how” organic an item is. If the front of the package carries the USDA Organic label like the one above, then that the item is made with 95% organic ingredients. The food in the picture above is actually packaged lettuce and it therefore carries the label.

Some labels may say Made with 70% Organic Ingredients, which means exactly what it says. And if the package does not say organic on the front, then read the ingredient list to find out if the item contains any organic ingredients. Anna Lappe explains this in the video below:

Are there certain foods that you consistently buy organic? Or maybe some that you don’t? What are they?

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